finding deeper connection by disconnecting
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. —Lao Tzu
In a world that is constantly in motion, it can feel like we are constantly falling behind. And now that we have supercomputers small enough and convenient enough to fit into our pockets, we as a society are constantly ON. It’s become normal to be sitting with friends and family, in real life, but giving more attention to our phone than to those who are right in front of us. It’s normal to be answering text messages all hours of the day and night–it’s become normal to always be available to others. In an effort to stay connected, I would say that we have never been more disconnected. Oddly enough, it is only when we are disconnected that we truly find connection to ourselves and to others. And where does one find these places of “disconnected connection?” In Mother Nature herself.
As much as we might try, we can not fully replicate the connection and presence felt in nature. Have you ever been in the middle of a redwood forest? Where the only sounds you can hear are real birds tweeting and the rustling of branches, not business papers? Where you look up and are blinded by streams of light breaking through the branches, not blue light emitting from your screens. Our phones cannot replicate the crisp mountain air that pierces our lungs and makes one feel awake and alive.
If I ask myself when I feel most alive and most connected, it’s when I’m experiencing the elements found only in nature. The vast silence of nature offers space for self-reflection. Nature does not care how many followers you have on Instagram. Nature does not care if you have made a million dollars. Nature is at its own pace and its own timeline. When we are in the presence of untouched nature, you realize that you are not external from it. When you are floating in the middle of the ocean, you realize that your existence is only in that present moment. You are not thinking about that work text you need to send or the emails you need to reply to.
Nature is humbling and healing. It teaches you comforting solitude and reminds you that you are never alone. According to this Times article, in the early 1980s, the Forest Agency of Japan began advising people to take strolls in the woods for better health; the practice was called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Since then, a large body of evidence has shown that spending time in nature is responsible for many measurable, beneficial changes in the body.
We often feel disconnected from ourselves and others when we are unwell, be it physically, mentally, spiritually, or any combination of the three. That is when we have to seek disconnection by finding connection in nature and to take a break from the fast pace of life.
I love everything about my fast-paced life, but I know that I need to change my environment every once in a while to fully rest and reset. Whenever I need to feel connected and present, I take a trip to places where I can disconnect. For me, this looks like trips up the coast of California, to the Redwoods, or going for ocean dips. If you can’t make it to the Redwoods or the ocean, one way to create that connection is by finding a local park or patches of grass. Taking your shoes and socks off and feeling the grass under your feet is a great way to ground yourself and to connect with nature (there’s actually a science behind this act, also known as earthing). Another way to find deeper feelings of connection is to explore nature with family and friends. It can be as simple as taking a trip to your local state park or simply taking a walk with a friend. And I encourage you to leave your phone at home to allow yourself to be fully present those around you.
As Lao Tzu stated, nature does not hurry, and neither should we. We can still achieve all of our goals and dreams while staying present and connected. Sometimes we just need a little extra help from environments to encourage us to find disconnected connection.